The early treatment of a ankle sprain is the "RICE" method of treatment. If you are unsure of the severity of your ankle sprain, talk to your doctor before beginning any treatment or rehab. The following is an explanation of the RICE method of treatment for ankle sprains:
- The first 24-48 hours after the injury is considered a critical treatment period and activities need to be curtailed. Gradually put as much weight on the involved ankle as tolerated and discontinue crutch use when you can walk with a normal gait (with minimal to no pain or limp)
- For the first 48 hours post-injury, ice pack and elevate the ankle sprain 20 minutes at a time every 3-4 hours. The ice pack can be a bag of frozen vegetables (peas or corn), allowing you to be able to re-use the bag. Another popular treatment method is to fill paper cups with water then freeze the cup. Use the frozen cube like an ice cream cone, peeling away paper as the ice melts. Do NOT ice a ankle sprain for more than 20 minutes at a time!! You will not be helping heal the ankle sprain any faster, and you can cause damage to the tissues!
- Use compression when elevating the ankle sprain in early treatment. Using an Ace bandage, wrap the ankle from the toes all the way up to the top of the calf muscle, overlapping the elastic wrap by one-half of the width of the wrap. The wrap should be snug, but not cutting off circulation to the foot and ankle. So, if your foot becomes cold, blue, or falls asleep, re-wrap!
- Keep your ankle sprain higher than your heart as often as possible. Elevate at night by placing books under the foot of your mattresses--just stand up slowly in the morning.
- More severe ankle sprain injuries, including complete tears of the ligaments and fractures of the bone may need different treatment and rehab than a simple ankle sprain. It is important that you see your doctor before beginning treatment or if your symptoms do not steadily improve over time.